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I Wouldn’t Read Too Much into That Story about Bruce Willis' iTunes Music Collection

There’s a hot story going around today about Bruce Willis and his plans to fight to pass his digital music collection to his daughters when he dies. According to the Daily Mail,

The Hollywood action hero is said to be considering legal action against technology giant Apple over his desire to leave his digital music collection to his daughters.

Since Willis – who occasionally sings with a blues band and has appeared in a video for Damon Albarn’s band Gorillaz – has apparently spent thousands of dollars downloading music on to ‘many, many iPods’, he is keen to be able to hand it on legitimately to daughters Rumer, Scout and Tallaluh.

I’m really not sure how much weight we should put in this story. It just doesn’t add up in a number of different categories.

Update: And now the story has been denied by Mrs. Bruce Willis. Told you so.

I was planning to write about this story and how it relates to ebooks, but since that is something of a stretch I sat back and contemplated the story while planning my route of attack.  I kept reading the original article, looking for the best points to raise, and I noticed that there were a number of details missing.

If you’ve only read one of the reposted copied stories, I suggest that you go read the original. One thing you won’t find there is any statement from Bruce Willis or his spokesman about the topic. That’s not such a big deal, but I’d like to know where the info came from in order to evaluate the credibility of that source.

You might also notice the absence of references to any past stories about Mr. Willis' efforts in this area. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal (my Google-fu is high), but in this case I can’t find anything in Google either.

And I’m not done. Have you considered where the story was published? It was in the Daily Mail, a right wing UK tabloid that is not widely regarded for its accuracy. While that by itself is not enough to condemn this article, it does start to add up.

And finally, has anyone considered how much Bruce Willis would really care about having "spent thousands of dollars downloading music"? The guy is reportedly worth $150 million. The music collection would have to hit 5 digits to get beyond being a rounding error for his  personal net worth. Heck, I bet his annual lawyer costs are higher than the amount spent on that music collection.

Do you really think he’s going to spend more than a couple minutes of time making sure his daughters could keep the music?  At best this might be a footnote in the legal docs somewhere (right after the cars), but I seriously doubt that it’s the focal point.

Now, I’m not saying that he doesn’t believe in this issue, but I don’t know that the original article is describing his motivations accurately. He might even really be funding the legislation in 5 states, but if he is I would bet his interest is more philanthropic than personal.

All I know today is that the Daily Mail article is not trustworthy. It does not stand up to scrutiny.

image by andyarthur

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Isles September 3, 2012 um 10:50 pm

This story is now on CNN’s website.

Nate Hoffelder September 3, 2012 um 10:59 pm

The early bogus story has been covered extensively, yes.

Isles September 3, 2012 um 11:32 pm

Crazy! I wonder who made it up? They do make a good point at least 🙂

Hayden September 4, 2012 um 3:42 am

In my opinion it is not about it being about Bruce Willis but being about the average Joe. Bruce Willis and his family are adamant that his name is being used with no factual basis.

When you go onto itunes or pretty much any ebook seller, the 'buy' button does not really mean buy. It really means 'rent'. The rental ends when you die, or your computer dies or many other possibilities.

Correct me if I am wrong, but if I get a DRMed Epub, then I need to remember my credit card number to be able to read it on a new device. I will get a new credit card every few years and if I change my laptop in that time, I may (will) forget the credit card I purchased the book with, which means I would have to 'buy' the book again.

My point is that the 'buy now' button is a little bit dishonest. You do not own the book or the songs.

Hence the smart thing to do once you buy a song or a book is to
1. Strip DRM
2. Backup it up

Passing it on to someone after you die is technically against your agreement with the original company, but hey, sue me. Who the hell reads the conditions? These things are designed in a way that makes them too much trouble to read them

Ingo Lembcke, Hamburg September 4, 2012 um 9:35 am

When you buy a book, it depends on where you buy it, how the DRM is applied (if any). For EPub with DRM there are 2 versions with Adobe-DRM: For one you need an Adobe-ID (most shops), at Barnes & Noble you need your name and credit card to read it on a different device – and probably an internet-connection to authorize it, too. Epubs from Apple use a different DRM from Apple.

But the real interesting thing about the supposed case regarding music is, that a lot of shops sell music without DRM, legal restrictions may apply, but apart from that, both Amazon (MP3) and iTunes (AAC) music are without DRM and can be copied freely. Apple switched iTunes music a couple of years back to non-DRM, with an option to swap older DRM-files for non-DRM-files – collection a fee of course. Some music was not available non-DRM (I had 1 bought song which is not available), and only these might warrant a legal battle. But imho even then it would be cheaper to just buy them again.
And, sorry to be so blunt, but most music my father listens to (he still uses a radio) is not my taste, and I do not think that the children of B. Willis are so different. I could understand the value of a collection which is not available anymore, like Vinyl, 8-track or maybe even the dying CD, but files? One of the reason for using files is that they have no perishable physical body and can be copied as much as I want (even with DRM, they just do not work then).

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